Listening to Outliers has been on pause for several days, but I continue to mull some things over. Because they come more frequently and tend to pile up, I always try to get caught up on my podcasts (85-ish subscriptions) before I listen to any audiobooks. I blogged ages ago to share some of my favorites. Perhaps I will do another one sometime soon.
Something I was already thinking through before I started Gladwell’s work is the concept that to truly be an “expert” in a given field, one must spend at least 10,000 hours of practice and application in it. I had actually heard this from Dan Miller of “48 Days to the Work You Love” fame. That translates to about 5 years if you’re talking about full-time employment in the field, but it could telescope to be longer with part-time practice or shorter to account for intense periods of practice, such as an internship or college study. This 10,000 hour rule can account for Bill Gates rising to mega success, the programming genius behind Unix, Sun Microsystems, and Java becoming so adept as his craft, even the Beatles sounding so, so good.
When I first heard Dan Miller mention this truism (on his podcast, of course), I didn’t think much at the time. I was actually thinking, gosh, it will take me many years to rack up that much time as a video editor! Then a few weeks later, I was on a run near the gym. (I try to run outside at least once a week when the weather allows.) The thought occurred to me – I have spent at least 10,000 hours doing something and it’s part of why I think I’m pretty good at it. My 10,000-hour specialty? Volunteer youth ministry.
Folks years older than me, parents, and even paid youth ministry professionals returning to local church youth ministry as volunteers, have made comments hinting that I am something of a model. Trying to steer well clear of the extremes of false modesty and arrogance, I can confidently say that I must have a few things figured out, or I wouldn’t be finishing a second decade of (almost uninterrupted) volunteering with no lag in sight.
So what will I do about this? I’ve looked from time to time into possibilities as a full-time/ paid youth worker. In His mystery, God has allowed those doors to remain closed. For whatever reason, the path of the “paid-to-be-gooder” (a term I have heard from our pastoral staff at church) has not been cleared for me. Instead (and here I must credit fellow volunteer youth ministry blogger Dennis Beckner), I wholeheartedly embrace the journey as being “good for nothing.” (Reread that if you need to.)
But here’s the dilemma. This set of skills and aptitudes has been developed almost exclusively in unpaid settings. Yet I would love to explore how I could use my expertise in this field to generate revenue to contribute to our livelihood. I’ve got some ideas, and I think this blog will be a foundational piece of whatever puzzle this turns out to be. If you are or know a multibillionaire who is looking for an extremely worthy project to fund in perpetuity, by all means, give me a call. But seriously, what good is a blog if it’s not an open-ended conversation? What should I consider as I think this through? Ideas? Suggestions? Reality check?